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Cold, Flu, & Cough Health Center

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Flu Emergency: When to Call a Doctor

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What Are Some Serious Complications?

When to Call the Doctor

If you or your child get any of the following symptoms, get medical care at once. You may have a serious complication that requires treatment.

  • Coughing up blood or green-tinged mucus
  • Croup, which causes a loud barking cough
  • Wheezing
  • Trouble breathing, shortness of breath, or rapid breathing
  • Pain or pressure in the chest
  • Confusion
  • Bluish-colored lips or nails
  • High fever
  • Convulsions from fever (this usually affects children)
  • Fever or cough that becomes severe or won’t go away


Reye's Syndrome

This serious illness occurs most often in children. It may follow infection with the flu or other viral diseases like chickenpox. It often happens after the child takes aspirin. Reye's syndrome affects the liver and brain. It’s rare, but it can be life threatening.

Symptoms include:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Confusion and delirium
  • Listlessness
  • Personality changes such as aggressiveness
  • Convulsions
  • Unconsciousness

Because of its link to Reye's syndrome, never give aspirin to children or teenagers unless your doctor says it’s OK.

What to Do in a Flu Emergency

If you or a family member has any signs or symptoms of a flu emergency, call 911 right away or go to the emergency room. Don’t wait.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Jennifer Robinson, MD on May 08, 2015
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